Cops & Donuts: The World’s Greatest Love Affair

Cops & Donuts



The New York Times once said, “No profession is as closely identified with food as police work is with doughnuts.”

The connection between doughnuts and cops began long ago. What started as a simple convenience grew into a symbiotic relationship with the best interest of the cops and the donut shops at heart.

Here’s the story of how that happened.

Police typically pull long shifts and work odd hours.

A female police officer using a radio at night

Often, cops are on duty overnight while most citizens are asleep, and nearly all businesses are closed.

Nighttime food options were limited in the days before gas station convenience stores became common. All-night restaurants and fast food joints such as Denny’s, IHOP, McDonalds, and Taco Bell were not yet on the scene.

It’s been estimated that in the 1960s, only 10 percent of restaurants in the US were open all night.

Police typically walked the beat before squad cars became common in the 1950s.

A police officer looking out on a street

If officers needed a place to get out of the weather, have a bathroom break, or sit and rest for a while, they generally had the choice of a donut shop or an all-night diner at a truck stop.

Even after squad cars became the norm, officers often required a quiet table to complete paperwork, fill out forms, and write reports.

Sometimes, they just wanted a peaceful corner to decompress from stressful events on the job or a place to meet with other cops to discuss the day’s events.

Bakeries were frequently targeted for robberies because they were the only shops open at night.

A person kneading bread in a bakery

Donut shops were either open all night or were the first business to open at dawn.

A single baker might be on the job, toiling all night to have a fresh batch of pastries ready for the 9-to-5 crowd to pick up on their way to work. This made them prime targets for robberies.

Bakeries encouraged the patronage of police because who’s going to rob a place where cop cars are constantly pulling in?

Often, the bakeries provided the donuts and coffee free of charge. Some bakeries even set aside special spots for police officers to gather. After all, it was cheaper than hiring security.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, two national chains of donut shops, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts, began gathering steam.

In his 2001 autobiography Time to Make the Donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts founder William Rosenberg credited his cop-friendly policy with boosting the business’s success.

Donuts provided an easy and inexpensive snack that was always ready to go.

Six colorful donuts arranged in a box

Carbs and caffeine provide a perfect pick-me-up to break up long hours on duty. For one, the coffee pot is always hot.

It’s also easier than ordering at a local all-night diner, where a sudden call might interrupt the meal at a moment’s notice. If a call comes in, donuts are highly portable.

For all these reasons, the cop/donut relationship blossomed early and held fast through the years.

Eventually, America noticed.

An array of colorful donuts

What started as a cultural touchstone morphed into a somewhat derogatory Hollywood caricature.

However, this cops-and-donuts stereotype is mainly limited to the US and Canada, where donuts are popular.

In other countries, cops may favor fries, as in the UK , or noodle shops in places like the Philippines.

The cliché is so engrained that protesters at riots have dangled donuts on fishing poles to mock the police force.

In Clare, Michigan, cops came to the rescue.

A sign for a donut shop called "Cops and Doughnuts"

When a long-time bakery in Clare, Michigan (population 3,300) was about to close in 2009, the entire police force, consisting of nine guys, pooled their resources and bought it.

They renamed it Cops & Doughnuts and turned it into a 24-hour community hotspot. When a press release announced the grand opening of this police-owned donut shop, the publicity ricocheted around the country.

Today, customers can purchase night shifts (cinnamon twists), tasers (lemon-filled), and squealers (bacon-topped long johns), but the most popular item is the plate-sized “felony fritter.”

The Michigan bakery is so popular that they opened a gift shop next door where people line up at the photo booth to have their coffee “mug” shot taken.

But they can also go too far.

A police helicopter flying in the sky

In 2001, an Albuquerque officer was reprimanded for landing a police helicopter in an empty field next to a donut shop.

The cop and the chopper pilot were returning to the hangar at the end of their shift. Landing around 2:00 a.m., the officer bought enough Krispy Kreme donuts to take back to the precinct to share but faced disciplinary measures afterward.


In short, donut shops provide social, physical, and emotional sustenance for those tasked with the responsibility of keeping the community safe.

In return, cops provide the bakery with cheap – or free – security.

This reciprocal relationship has served its purpose well; The New York Times reports that donut shops have the lowest rate of robberies among other retail businesses.

About The Author

Janet Spencer
Janet Spencer

Janet Spencer, the Trivia Queen of the Universe, lives in Montana and has spent her life gathering useless info, cool facts, and surprising stats. Janet loves sharing this knowledge with people to impress experts, amaze regular folks, and leave everyone wide-eyed!

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